At a political rally in Pakistan on Sunday, a suicide attack took place that took lives of around 44 people and injured various others. The rally was organized by an extremist Islamist party in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, known to be a former bastion of Islamic militants.
One of the senior leaders of the party, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), said that the perpetrators wanted to weaken the Islamic extremists of Pakistan. The party is conservative and known to be associated with hardline political Islam.
Death toll can rise further
According to the police, their search has suggested that the incident was probably a suicide attack that took place in a previously tribal area of Bajaur, which borders Afghanistan. The officials also said that rescue operation has been completed and injured have safely been taken to hospitals.
Majority of the injured have been taken to Bajaur hospitals and the surrounding areas, said district police officer Nazir Khan. Those seriously injured were shifted from Bajaur hospital to the capital Peshawar in military helicopters. Officials have said that the number of deaths could rise further, as condition of 15 injured is severe. According to official reports, around 200 people have been injured in the blast.
Security officials have sealed the area and have started investigation into the incident.
Since last year, when a truce between the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Islamabad was broken, assaults by Islamist militants have increased in Pakistan. More than 100 people were killed earlier this year in a Peshawar mosque blast.
Police arrests three suspects
While the TTP and its affiliated groups have been responsible for the majority of attacks in Pakistan in recent months, they disassociated themselves from the incident on Sunday, which their spokesman denounced.
The bomb disposal squad team was reportedly gathering evidence from the scene as the police claimed to be seeking details about the suicide bomber.
Nazir Khan, a district police officer, reported the arrest of three suspects.
The explosion employed 10 kilogrammes of explosives that were detonated by a suicide bomber, according to provincial police chief Akhtar Hayat Khan. The convention goers situated in the front rows, he claimed, included the bomber.
According to local authorities, the assailant set off explosives close to the convention’s stage.
According to one eyewitness, the tent collapsed, trapping those who were frantically attempting to flee. While medical facilities struggled to deal with the large number of casualties, several seriously injured persons were waiting in the hallways.
The incident occurred hours before Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng arrived in Islamabad, where he was scheduled to take part in a ceremony to commemorate ten years of the expansive China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC, a programme in which Beijing has made significant investments in Pakistan.